Alabama The Pick For SEC Title

Much has been made of the six Southeastern Conference football teams that have an open date prior to playing Alabama. That really misses the point when looking ahead to the 2010 football season. What teams in the SEC really need is a week off AFTER playing Nick Saban's Crimson Tide.

Alabama is going to be picked as the league favorite when SEC Media Days are held in Birmingham this week. The Crimson Tide's Nick Saban will be the first of 12 SEC head coaches to address the gathering. He'll be joined by Bama's three representatives to meet the press: Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, undefeated senior quarterback Greg McElroy, and linebacker Dont'a Hightower, the successor to Rolando McClain.

It's easy to pick Alabama as the favorite. Bama is not only the 2009 SEC Champion (the 22nd time the Crimson Tide has won the league title), but also won the national championship last season. The 14-0 season gave Alabama its 13th national title.

Veteran SEC Media Days attendees are aware that precious little real information is released by the coaches and players. That's not to say the event is not worthwhile. Just because there is not usually a blockbuster story doesn't mean that one can't get a feel for how the teams are shaping up. There's some grousing about "media interviewing media," but that's valuable, too. The Scout guys will all get together at various times for information exchange.

I spend a lot of time thinking about football and working out a logical prediction for the season. Last year was right on the money: 12-0. The previous season was a miss on the short side, a prediction of 10-2 that was also 12-0. (Fool me once....)

I had worked out this year's projected SEC outcome before Bobby Johnson's surprise resignation at Vanderbilt last week. Believe me, the Johnson resignation and the elevation of Robbie Caldwell to head coach did not affect where I planned to put Vandy in the predicted SEC finish. I'll go ahead and end the suspense: 0-8, dead last again, and 3-9 in all games.

There's also not much suspense about where I pick Alabama. Like everyone else, I'll have the Crimson Tide. Moreover, it will be Bama 8-0 in the SEC and 12-0 overall.

Arkansas is being picked as the darkhorse of the SEC. Give the Razorbacks credit for one good schedule move. Arkansas has an open date after playing the Tide, a week needed for healing. The only other SEC team with an open date after Alabama is Auburn.

Our method involves, primarily, three things: Personnel, Coaching, Where Games Fall on the Schedule. Many put more stock into home field advantage than we do.

There is no surprise about our pre-season prediction for the SEC Championship Game, to be played on December 4 in Atlanta. Almost everyone will have Bama playing Florida. It will be a rematch as the Gators come to Tuscaloosa for a regular season game on October 2. In our projection, that will be the only loss for Florida, which goes 7-1, 11-1.

As for the rest of the SEC Western Division behind Alabama, we have LSU at 6-2, 10-2; Auburn also at 6-2, 10-2, but LSU winning the tie-breaker (head-to-head); Ole Miss a surprising 4-4, 8-4; Arkansas a disappointing 3-5, 6-6 (you can't just HOPE for defense), and Mississippi State much improved on the field, but still only 1-7, 5-7.

In the East, behind Florida it will be South Carolina and Georgia both at 5-3, 8-4, the Gamecocks getting the head-to-head win;

And in the new head coach division (presumably Urban Meyer won't put Florida in this category), Tennessee 2-6, 5-7; Kentucky 1-7, 4-8; and Vanderbilt.

As for the rematch between Alabama and Florida in the SEC Championship Game? Those could be different teams two months after the regular season game, but our long-standing opinion is that when teams play twice in a season, the same team usually wins both times because it is the better team.

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